Posted: Monday 7 March 2011
The first time I went to work for a CEO as an administrative assistant, I was definitely nervous. However, all my friends and colleagues spent a lot of time reassuring me that "CEOs are just like everyone else" and that "they put their pants on one leg at a time just like you." By the time I was done psyching myself up for the position, I had just about managed to convince myself that since I put my shoes on first right and then left, breathed oxygen just like everyone else and could type that I would be just fine. And, ultimately, I was, but if I'd have a better idea of what things actually matter when you are working with the truly "higher-ups" in a business, I would have had a much easier time of it.
Here are some things I wish I'd done ahead of time before starting to work for "my" CEO:
Boned up on my legal vocabulary
While not all assistants are hired specifically to help with legal issues, they come up a lot. Furthermore, most CEOs do not have time to explain anything. So if you are going to take notes, make appointments or resolve office-based conflicts of just about any type, you are going to run into legal jargon and you need to know what on earth your employer is talking about.
Figured out the common company acronyms
Again, this is a lot like the legal vocabulary issue. It may not be your job, but you need to know what your employer is talking about and most CEOS get annoyed when you ask. If you are coming into a new company, then make sure you are familiar with their "tech speak" before you get started.
I moved up through a company to work for a CEO. The dress code was casual, and I wore jeans or khakis and a nice blouse almost every day. I showed up for work for the CEO and realized immediately that I was not up to par even though I'd been dressed acceptably for my previous position. When it comes to work, overdress to start, then ease off if you realize that you have overdone it. If you are working as an assistant then most CEOs view you as a representative of themselves and will not appreciate anything that looks unprofessional.
Known how important confidentiality would be
While I didn't blow any corporate secrets, I did not realize how important it was not to tell anyone anything about what I was scheduling, taking notes on or talking about with my boss. Fortunately, the first person to hear me mention something about work was a friend of mine who works for the boss of a large company, and she emphasized immediately to me that I should never repeat anything about work when you work for the guy (or girl) at the top.
While it is true that CEOs are people just like everyone else, you do have to work for them in slightly different ways than you would work for anyone else. Keeping the lessons I learned in mind may help you better work with and for your personal CEO.